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Although traditional forms of donor support focused primarily on technical assistance, there is a growing recognition that changing the quality of governance means engaging at a deeper, more political level. Rather than simply trying to shape the structure of institutions, donors are instead seeking to shape the behaviour of different political actors. Ensuring that political institutions have adequate powers and resources is only one half of the equation, the other half is in ensuring those tools are used. Creating effective parliaments and political parties means making governments more accountable which, in turn, means a redistribution of political power. 
This paper looks at the way in which donors are seeking to deal with these issues. It first assesses international assistance to parliaments, then efforts to support political parties. In each case it addresses the reasons why donors are seeking to work in that area, the sorts of activities they have engaged in, the reasons for their limited effectiveness, and the emerging strategy that is likely to shape political engagement in the coming years.